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2 fuel-laden fishing vessels sink after hitting Southeast Alaska rocks

Laurel Andrews

Two fishing vessels hit rocks and sank in Southeast Alaska early Wednesday morning, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation reported.

The first occurred around 1 a.m. on Wednesday, when the 71-foot fishing vessel Pacific Queen, with an estimated 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel aboard, sank in Alaska’s Inside Passage about 21 miles south of the town of Petersburg.

The wooden-hulled vessel reportedly hit a rock, damaging the hull and sinking the ship. The vessel’s three crew members were rescued by good Samaritans. Depth of the water at the site is unknown. A Thursday reconnaissance was unable to spot the ship.

However, a silver sheen was spotted on Wednesday during an overflight, but the DEC reports that only a small amount of fuel is believed to have leaked from the vessel. The captain of the Pacific Queen was able to secure fuel vents before evacuating.

The Southeast Alaska Petroleum Resource Organization is on scene with an oil recovery barge and containment boom. A Thursday overflight showed no sheen on the water.

Hours after the Pacific Queen sank, a second ship hit a rock and sank off the coast of Craig, on the outer coast of Prince Wales Island, said Sarah Mooers, on-scene coordinator with the DEC.

The 56-foot fishing vessel Coral Sea sank around 4:30 a.m. on Wednesday, with a reported 300–400 gallons of diesel fuel on board. The ship sank in a “pretty remote location, on a really rocky coastline,” making preliminary surveying more difficult, Mooers said.  

The five crew members were also rescued by a good Samaritan vessel.

Circumstances surrounding the two accidents are under investigation by the Coast Guard and DEC. Weather conditions were not bad, to Mooers knowledge.

Correction: The original article stated that the Pacific Queen sank Wednesday afternoon. This has been corrected to Wednesday morning.

Contact Laurel Andrews at laurel(at)alaskadispatch.com